It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

By Kim Everson, DVM

With no air conditioning in our house, EdGrrr spent the day stretched out on the garage floor while GrrrD staked out a spot under the steps in the clinic. For now, it is a cool haven on a hot day but as soon as I open the veterinary clinic in a few weeks, I bet the spaniel will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the place!

I know heat exhaustion is a topic I’ve addressed here before, but it apparently bears repeating. Check out the scene my friend Jennifer H. captured on film last Thursday:

“How about I put you in a snowsuit inside of a sauna….”

Leaving a dog in a car for any period of time in this kind of weather is not a good idea, regardless of the breed. Here are some other tips for keeping your pet safe in this hot, humid weather:

  • Limit exercise to the coolest part of the day, no matter how happy your dog is to participate when it is warm. 
  • Older, obese or short-nosed dogs (e.g., pugs, pekingese, bulldogs) are less heat tolerant and should be kept in cool areas as much as possible.
  • All dogs need constant access to shade and an endless supply of cool, clean water.
  • Heat exhaustion can kill your pet!  Never leave a pet alone in a car, even with the windows down.  On a sunny day your car can reach 120 degrees in minutes, even if the temperature feels reasonable on the outside.
  • Remember, even if you park in the shade, it won’t stay that way. What was shady an hour ago will soon be sun-beaten.
  • Dogs perspire through their paw pads, so the longer he is on the hot pavement or sandy beach, the less able he is to cool down. Don’t tie your dog up in the sun or make him stand on the street in hot weather.
  • Pets can get sunburned too!!  Areas of the skin that have less hair, such as the lips, ears and nose are common areas for sunburn, especially in light-colored pets.  Keep pets in the shade during peak sun hours (10 am – 4 pm).
  • Inside the house, you should provide adequate ventilation with screened, open windows, air conditioning or fans.

While playing outside, watch for signs of heat stroke. An overheated animal may pant heavily, slobber from the mouth, vomit or have diarrhea. Glassy eyes, frantic panting, or collapse indicate a dog needs immediate veterinary help. You must quickly reduce the body temperature by soaking the animal in lukewarm (not icy) water and gently massaging the legs and body. Assessment and additional treatment by your veterinarian is recommended.

As uncomfortable as this humidity is for us people and pets, I’d still choose today’s weather over windchill and snow drifts any day!

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